Hundreds of Orthodox Christians Protest Sale of Church Property in Jerusalem

The demonstration against sale of land by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate highlighted tensions between Greek Orthodox leadership and the Palestinian faithful

Demonstrators protesting the Greek Orthodox church's sale of real estate.
Mahmoud Illian/AP

About 300 Orthodox Christians staged a demonstration in Jerusalem's Old City on Saturday against Greek Orthodox Jerusalem patriarch Theophilos III's decision to sell a substantial portion of the Greek Orthodox church's property in Israel.

The primary transaction being protested by demonstrators involved the sale of property in Jerusalem to private buyers in downtown Jerusalem as well as residential neighborhoods of the city. In addition, the church has sold extensive plots of land in Caesarea, Jaffa, Tiberias and elsewhere. Some of the demonstrators claimed that the sales were the product of corruption and called for the patriarch's resignation.  

The protest also highlighted the church's sale of property in the Old City to the right-wing Jewish group Ateret Cohanim. Those sales were arranged under the predecessor to Theophilos III, and the current patriarch has objected to a court decision finalizing the sale. Among the demonstrators was the head of the Joint List Knesset faction, Ayman Odeh.

The demonstration underlined the tension within the Greek Orthodox church in Israel between the administration, which is Greek, and the faithful, who are predominantly Palestinian.